I’ll be honest— I’m not sure if I have ever had a traditional baked ziti. Are there ziti rules? If so, I’m sure I broke them. My recipe is basically all your favorite American- Italian dishes combined into one lovely, bubbly, baked dish.
This is a great meal to take to that friend who just had a baby, or to prepare when you need to feed a ton of mouths. It’s great when prepped ahead of time so make, take it, then bake it!
1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground Italian sausage
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 box of ziti noodles
25 oz. prepared marinara sauce*
28 oz. crushed Roma Tomatoes
1 1/2 lbs mozzarella cheese, shredded
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1/2 C half and half
1 1/2 C milk
3/4 C parmesan cheese, shredded or grated
1/2 C romano cheese, shredded or grated
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Prepare noodles according to package instructions. Cook till al dente.
3. Brown ground beef and sausage with the diced onion. Drain excess oil.
4. Combine browned meat with prepared marinara sauce and crushed tomatoes. Let simmer for at least 20 minutes. Don’t forget to season accordingly.
5. Cream Sauce: melt butter on medium heat in large skillet. Add in minced garlic. Whisk in the flour to create a roux. Turn the heat down to low and whisk in the half and half and milk in increments. Let mixture thicken for 4-5 minutes. Add in the shredded parmesan and romano cheese. Taste the sauce. If too bland, add salt, and a pinch of pepper! Add drained noodles to cream mixture and toss till well coated.
6. Assembly: layer half the noodles on the bottom, topped with 1/2 the meat sauce and cover with mozzarella cheese. Repeat layers. Top with mozzarella cheese.
7. Bake for 30 minutes.
*How I spice up my marinara sauce: I don’t always have time to simmer a homemade marinara sauce. My freezer isn’t large enough to store large batches of it either. That’s when I have to rely on my favorite jarred sauce and just kick it up a notch. I like to look for a sauce with low sodium and no added sugar since I like to add my own.
For this recipe I started with Rao’s sauce. This is typically what I add:
+1 tbsp tomato paste
+1 tbsp italian seasoning
+ 1/2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
+ 2 tbsp sugar or 1/4 C grated carrot
+ 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
+ 1 tsp salt
Since you’re making a larger batch of sauce for the ziti (don’t forget the extra can of crushed tomatoes) double the ingredients listed above!
Of course, all of this is dependent upon what sauce you start with. Some might call for more Italian seasoning, less salt, and no sugar. I strongly encourage you to stir and taste. Let it simmer and taste it again!
If the top of the ziti starts to brown too quickly, spray foil with cooking spray and place on top. Continue to bake.